This past November, Phil Bailey's employer, Roadlink Workforce Solutions, a firm providing temporary staff to businesses, fired him and a co-worker, accusing them of having put up pro-union stickers in their workplace. Bailey denied any involvement. When two other workmates came to his defense, their boss fired them as well. All four workers filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, which issued a formal complaint at the end of February saying that Roadlink had violated the workers' federally protected right to "concerted action" for "mutual aid." The NLRB has planned a hearing in May on its order that Roadlink reinstate the four workers with back pay.
The story is more interesting, however, because it serves to show how large companies like Wal-Mart attempt to insulate themselves and thwart employees' legitimate interest in forming a union. Walmart owns a giant distribution center in Elwood, Ill., where Bailey worked. As with most of its logistics hubs, the world’s largest retailer contracts with one firm to manage the warehouse. That firm then in turn subcontracts with several staffing companies, including Roadlink, to provide most of the workforce. Such complex, layered contractual relations insulate Walmart from responsibilities to employees and make it easy to get rid of workers by canceling contractors if, for example, workers ever tried to form a union.
The law has been slow to deal with these types of anti-union arrangements set up by companies and as a result, unions in this country have been weakening for years.
You can read the entire story at the Today's Workplace Blog.